For our money, there's no more suitable Solider Of The Scene than Luke Solomon, a gent who straddles underground heroics and the mainstream simultaneously. Though you may not be quite so aware of the latter. Chiefly, he's known for his production skills as Freaks, his peerless, long-running house imprint Classic, founded with Derrick Carter, or maybe for his seminal midweek club Space in central London, which he ran with the late, great Kenny Hawkes. Then there's his solo releases on Cajual and Crosstown Rebels. But he's also seen his fair share of chart-bound action too, via his work for Defected and its associated labels, where he's been an A&R man for the past eight years.
“A lot of people don't realise that. But I'm pretty covert about a lot of things,” he laughs. “I just don't shout about stuff, perhaps to my detriment over the years. People even now — people that I know really well too — are like, ‘Wow, I didn't know you worked there!' I think it's nice that people find out organically. It's a nice feeling.” The massive recent success of Camelphat? Solomon was all over it like a flannel.
“I find that a lot of people in dance music are really consumed with being aligned or associated with being cool, and not wanting to step out of their lane with something that people might take the piss out of them about on the internet,” Luke tells DJ Mag.
“I come from a world where that never mattered. It never mattered that Masters At Work remixed the Spice Girls. Good music is just good music. For me to able to listen to great dance music from any genre, and appreciate it for what it is, whether I think a record could be a 'big' record, I guess it takes a certain kind of ear. I'm in the middle of remixing Kelly Clarkson for Atlantic in America, for purely that reason. I love the track, so who gives a shit? And I'm also producing Horse Meat Disco's album. So I get to be disco as well. I'm really fucking lucky, to be honest.”
That's the spirit. This year, even more than most, has been a big one. Camelphat scored a Grammy nomination for the massive single ‘Cola’, and Honey Dijon, someone who Solomon has been friends with for many years, blew up massively too with ‘Houze’, ‘Personal Slave’ and the album ‘The Best Of Both Worlds’, all on Classic. His own track ‘Light You Up’ went gangbusters too, and he even found time — somehow — to kick off his band project, Powerdance, a kind of dance music supergroup featuring the likes of Nick Maurer from Greenskeepers, Lance Desardi, Al Doyle from Hot Chip, Amy Douglas, and Moodymanc on percussion, slamming down the album ‘The Lost Art Of Getting Down’ on Bandcamp, to the delight of the likes of James Murphy and revered New York DJ Justin Strauss.
It made it into The Guardian's best albums of the year list, despite no 'official' release. There have been ups and downs along the way for Luke, however. Classic was shuttered in 2005 as vinyl suffered at the hands of digital, and distributors went bust left, right and centre. When his great friend Kenny Hawkes died in 2011, it made him “re-evaluate things, grow up and take my job a bit more seriously”. And so he did. Even up to a couple of years ago, he considered “throwing the towel in”. But now the fruits of all that labour are showing.
As for the moniker of ‘Solider Of The Scene', he laughs: “The idea of going to war or into battle, anyone who knows me knows that I'm just not that person. But actually if you put it down to the battle I've had to stay relevant and keep working, being a soldier's maybe not a million miles off!” BEN ARNOLD